Immigrants and migrant workers are coming to Moscow these days in the hundreds of thousands. They are often treated as second-class citizens. They have no place or means to go from the crowded dorms they live in for entertainment or even to celebrate their own holidays.
Navruz is major holiday in Central Asia to mark the coming of spring, planting time and new life. One Russian Baptist church saw this as a unique opportunity to reach out to Tajik migrant workers in their neighborhood. This church had never done anything like this before so they recruited some Tajik believers and other volunteers to help them decorate, cook and come up with a program to make the Tajik migrants feel at home.
They didn’t know how many to expect or if Tajiks from a Muslim background would even step into a Baptist church with a large cross. Some of the volunteers dressed up in colorful Tajik costumes and stood outside in the snow to welcome anyone who came. They also learned how to say “welcome” in Tajik.
One group of Tajik men stood hesitantly on the sidewalk near the church apparently trying to make up their mind about whether or not they would go inside. Finally one young Tajik – braver than the rest – stuck his head in the door. As soon as he heard the Tajik music coming from inside, he gestured to the rest to come on in.
About 150 Tajiks ended up coming. (Other churches across the city also hosted events for Central Asians.) There was just enough of the traditional Tajik dish (osh) for everyone, and everyone who came received a copy of the New Testament and a Jesus film in their own language. The next Sunday 13 of the guests came back to attend the newly started Tajik service. Two of them accepted Christ.
God is bringing the nations to many of our communities these days. Celebrating our freedom around the fourth of July this week we may be reminded that many of our ancestors came to this land as immigrants and strangers to the culture and language. With a little creativity there is no lack of opportunities for us to make disciples of all nations in our own home church! We can begin to bridge cultural gaps when we invite them to celebrate our own holidays with us – or perhaps even better, when we take part in theirs.